Welcome to the bumper Steam Next Fest “I accidentally missed two issues of my column because I was violently ill” edition of Indie Insights. Granted, I am always ill, but I was extra ill on top of the usual ill. So much ill, and none of it Beastie Boys related. I usually like to have a quick round-up of what’s been going on in the gaming world since my last column, but the world is just generally quite horrible at the moment, so instead, here’s a look at as many demos as I could play from this most recent Steam Next Fest! Come dissociate with me!
Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley
I LOVE MOOMINS. For those that don’t know The Moomins, they are hippoesque creatures created by Finnish writer Tove Jansson. What began as books branched out into a beloved cartoon series and has achieved enduring popularity, especially in Europe. The central character is Moomintroll, but this game sees his best friend, Snufkin, take center stage. I have been following the progress of this game from studio Hyper Games for what seems like millennia. I’m in the Discord, I’m following the socials, I’m on the mailing list. I have WAITED for this game. Now, finally, I can sample the delights of Moominvalley.
It’s the end of Autumn, and it’s time for Snufkin to leave for the Winter so the Moomins can hibernate. This results in the saddest opening cutscene of all time, scored beautifully by Sigur Rós. Never fear, though, because as Spring rolls around, Snufkin returns to the valley to meet his friend Moomintroll at the bridge again. As Snufkin returns, he runs into a strange, weasely creature with no name that joins him. There also seems to be some disquiet in the valley as creatures run past, fleeing.
The thirty-minute demo showcases some of the puzzles you will solve as Snufkin and the power of his harmonica playing. The harmonica’s melody will entice creatures to follow and help you, but you will need to collect inspiration and level up your playing to entice some creatures. In the demo, you’ll help reunite a mother bird with her babies, ride across some water atop a funny fellow, and you will come across some urban planning in the heart of nature.
The local police are putting signs up covered in rules and bafflingly creating parks in the middle of nature. Not good parks, ones that involve destroying the natural beauty of the land to create. Snufkin is not having this. The main mission of the demo is to destroy all the signs and dismantle the parks without being seen by the police. Snufkin really said ACAB. The demo and soundtrack are beautiful, and I just want more.
Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is out in early 2024.
Yellow Taxi Goes Vroom
In a manic retro world, you are a tiny wind-up yellow taxi. You have been created by Morio to take down the evil Tosla company, run by an alien called Alien Mosk. None of these things are based on any real things or people. Your job is to speed around, collect gears to open up new levels, give people rides and ultimately take down the Tosla headquarters.
Developers Panik Arcade have done a superb job of emulating the visual style of N64 titles, and the aesthetic brings to mind the Nintendo 64 Mario games and the original Sonic. Speed your way around streets, houses, beaches, and more, collecting coins and gears and smashing things up as you go. Navigate incredibly annoyingly angular places filled with nooks and crannies and just generally have a good time. It’s a manic smash-and-crash adventure that is so much fun that I can’t wait to play it again.
Yellow Taxi Goes Vroom is currently TBA.
This subterfuge-filled Truman Show by way of Wes Anderson from Out of the Blue Games sees you take on dual roles. The first is Trevor Hills, a nobody who works for a company called INAC. The second is of a woman called Angela, who works for Watson Media. The scene is set with Trevor having a deposition, and we are shown a brief flash of him running away from someone in a sequence that could have come from the game Inside. Then, it’s time for him to begin his tale.
On a regular day, regular Trevor heads into work at INAC, a large open-plan building that looks like the 70s threw up on it. It’s all orange and brown, with everyone inside sporting bellbottoms and Shaggy from Scooby Doo haircuts. After arriving, Trevor finds out his friend Gus has won a travel grant and has gone to Fiji, but that doesn’t sound right to him. His hunch appears correct as his workstation fizzles out, and the massive screen at the front of the office glitches and displays “Gus is dead.” From there, he follows a trail to a restricted area where Angela tells him that Gus is dead and he’s next.
From here on out, the action switches between Trevor and Angela. Trevor is in third-person side-scrolling, and Angela is in first-person. The initial switch between the two was quite jarring. Angela takes care of tech support remotely while Trevor navigates obstacles and tries to stay ahead of the Interceptors who are after him. It’s an intelligent mix of puzzle-solving, mystery, and action with some standout mechanics. The full game is out very soon, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the mystery of Arcadia.
American Arcadia is out on November 23.
Developers Mythic Owl are adding another puzzle game to their repertoire with Planetiles. The game is a kind of terraforming game where you place tiles on a planet to create colonies, structures, and natural features. The goal is to make points to earn more chunks of tiles to place. To do this, complete missions and lineup tiles of the same type. Once you get a chunk of the same tiles a certain size, they will upgrade to a structure. Fill all the open space on the planet to open up a new planet to travel to.
You can also choose natural events to occur once you reach a certain point. The events that will come up will be a double-edged sword, with a benefit to your immaculate tile game but a banda hindrance in the form of some natural disaster. For example, I chose to have a volcano rise out of the sea and destroy a few tiles in exchange for being able to swap tiles around structures. It’s a deceptively tricky little colony builder that I can see myself losing days at a time to without realizing it.
Planetiles is coming soon.
Times & Galaxy
Breaking news! It’s the future, and robots can now be reporters! Read all about it in the demo for Times & Galaxy from aptly named developers Copychaser Games. Play as the first-ever Reporterbot, about to start their internship at the famed intergalactic newspaper Times & Galaxy. First, though, you have to customize your character. Only one bot model is available in the demo, but you can choose your name, pronouns, and paint job. Thus, intrepid reporter Lois Lame, the bright purple and lime green nightmare robot, was born.
After investigating the shuttle bay and attempting to talk to the service bots that are around you, make your way to reception and meet your new Story Editor, Arwin, who is some kind of floating goop-fish in a robotic suit. You immediately get thrown into your first assignment on the planet of Aug below your orbit. A space shuttle has crashed, and it’s your job to get all the juicy details, so it’s time to go down to Aug.
The premise is fairly simple: interview people on the scene to get information. Your questions and comments will influence what you can include in your story. You won’t be able to ask every option presented, so choose carefully. You can build the story once you have spoken to everyone and examined everything. You can select headlines, quotes, loglines, and color pieces to make your story pop. All these things help to improve your readership and reputation. Overall, it’s an enjoyable narrative adventure that I’m looking forward to diving into when the full game is released.
Times & Galaxy comes out in 2024.
- Sandbox adventure My Little Universe is out now for Steam and Nintendo Switch.
- Puzzle game Sweet Dreams Alex is out now for PC.
- The retro-futuristic text game [I] Doesn’t Exist is out now for PC.
- Spooky 8-Bit horror game Sunshine Manor comes to consoles on October 6. Already available for PC, it’s now available on PlayStation 4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
- Action adventure Saltsea Chronicles sees a full release for PC, Mac, PS5, and Nintendo Switch on October 12.
- Cooperative sandbox shooter Wizard with a Gun comes to PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X on October 17.
- Gadget-filled tower defense Bish Bash Bots comes to PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on October 19.